Town 2 Walsall 2
Town: Jayson Leutwiler (Mark Halstead, 71), Cameron Gayle, Mickey Demetriou (James Wesolowski, 46), Connor Goldson, Mark Ellis, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Liam Lawrence (c), Ryan Woods, James Collins, Andy Mangan, Bobby Grant (Jordan Clark, 65)
Subs not used: Aaron Wildig, Scott Vernon, Anthony Griffith, Ashley Vincent, Jordan Clark
Walsall: Richard O’Donnell, Ben Purkiss, Andy Taylor, Paul Downing, Adam Chambers (c), Tom Bradshaw, Romaine Sawyers (Ashley Grimes, 81), James Baxendale (Mathieu Manset, 65), Michael Cain, James Chambers, Anthony Forde (Sam Mantom, 71)
Subs not used: James O’Connor, Mal Benning, Reece Flanagan, Craig MacGillivray
Referee: D. Deadman
Assistants: P. Rees & N. Gibbons
Fourth Official: M. Jones
Attendance: 3,546 (1,217 from Shrewsbury)
Martin Wild reports from Banks’s Stadium
Shrewsbury came within minutes of upsetting their League One opponents Walsall in the FA Cup this afternoon. Mark Ellis put them in the driving seat early doors and even though James Collins scored a second for Micky Mellon’s side, former Town striker Tom Bradshaw struck twice either side of the Irishman’s 60thminute goal – with his second coming in the 90thminute.
Town were forced to make changes for this first round tie. Jack Grimmer was cup-tied, Jermaine Grandison had to sit out the match due to his sending off last week, and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro was excluded due to a slight hamstring injury. Into the side came Ellis, Cameron Gayle and Andy Mangan - who’s had to be content with appearances from the bench in the last few matches.
Shrews started in menacing mood and a terrific move down their right hand side involving three or four players, eventually saw Collins slip Mangan into space. He smashed the ball across the face of goal but there was no one on the end of it to give Salop a lead in 60 seconds.
But on four minutes that lead came when a loose ball from a corner fell invitingly for Ellis, who leathered the ball into the bottom corner right in front of the travelling hoardes. It was a perfect start for the centre-half, celebrating his recall with a first goal in Shrewsbury colours since signing in the summer.
The Town looked really comfortable and there were was very little for the home supporters to get excited about, with the large away support making all the noise. Midway through the half, and from another set-piece, Bobby Grant’s inviting free-kick evaded the Saddlers’ defence and it looked like Ellis was in there again along with Mickey Demetriou, but neither was able to get their shots away in what was a great chance for the away side to double their lead.
Anthony Forde fizzed a 25 yarder into the side netting shortly after, which was as close as Walsall had come to troubling an organised but underworked Town defence.
Shrews would have gone two up after 37 minutes had it not been for a brilliant reactionary stop from Richard O’Donnell. Demetriou’s superb cross was met on the full by the head of Collins, but the home keeper spread himself brilliantly with the effort kept out by a high trailing boot, The ball looped into the air and landed on top of the cross bar with O’Donnell punching clear as Mangan looked for any scraps to feed off. Collins perhaps should have scored but you had to congratulate the goalkeeper for the save.
Ryan Woods picked up a yellow just before the break for a crunching tackle on Andy Taylor and despite the home supporters baying for blood, the usually controversial Darren Deadman made sure the colour of card shown to the midfielder was the correct one.
In stoppage time Jayson Leutwiler made a decent save to deny Bradshaw a leveller for the hosts, in what was really their one and only chance of the half.
Half -Time: Walsall 0 Town 1
Demetriou failed to come out of the tunnel after the interval with James Wesolowski coming on in his place, and Town reverting to a 4-4-2 line-up after playing the first 45 with the three at the back system that has served them so well in recent matches.
The crowd was announced and it was a disappointing one with just over three and a half thousand in – swelled by the away contingent which accounted for more than a third of the gate.
Leutwiler made an unorthodox save from Forde, choosing to punch instead of catch the ball, but the Walsall fans were soon celebrating. After 56 minutes Bradshaw got half a yard of space, and beat Leutwiler from inside the box to restore parity and register an eighth goal of the season.
They weren’t celebrating for long though as Town went back in front on the hour mark. Mangan was awarded a free kick which appeared a little soft, but with Liam Lawrence and Mangan both stood over the ball, it was the latter who took the kick. His shot was deflected into the net by Collins whose touch diverted the ball into the opposite corner of O’Donnell’s dive. The away end erupted for a second time.
Jordan Clark was introduced for Grant with 25 minutes left - moments after Mangan went into Mr. Deadman’s book for simulation, after a tumble in the penalty area. The next change that Town had to make was to their goalkeeper as Mark Halstead came on for Leutwiler. With 15 minutes left, Bradshaw came close to his second, flashing his header fractionally wide from Ben Purkiss’ inviting cross.
Lawrence and Halstead were both cautioned inside the last 10 minutes; the skipper for kicking the ball away and the keeper for time wasting as the referee reverted to type. And Town were still holding the slender advantage as the clock ticked ever closer to 90 minutes. Connor Goldson became the fifth Town player yellow carded after a mistimed tackle with Shrewsbury five clear on the card count, and this one was extremely costly. From the resultant free-kick Bradshaw’s shot took a wicked deflection to give Halstead absolutely no chance right on full-time. All of a sudden there were five added minutes with the match now evenly poised.
Neither side came close to a winner, however, with the replay scheduled to take place at Fortress Greenhous on Tuesday week.
Full-Time: Walsall 2 Town 2